Friday, August 22, 2014

Rejecting or Embracing the Sacred

I recently taught a class in creative contemplation that was based on Lectio Divina, or divine reading.  It is a practice undertaken by contemplative Christians and monks in which one completely surrenders to the voice of God as inspired by a line of scripture.  I have no real allegiance to Christianity, other than my upbringing, and presented the practice in a completely secular course.  Much modern meditative and contemplative forms are presented this way.  Centuries old sacred traditions stripped of theology and much underlying philosophy as a means of adapting each to a stressful, material world.  Sort of like insisting that prayer without an object or spirit to pray to will bring about a miracle.  The act, not the deity, holds the influence.  In my busy life in the city this means poses no problems.  But I spent the weekend at my parents’ house in the mountains, very quiet, and found the entire secularization of sacred traditions troubling.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

I'd Rather Shock Myself

A much cited study from researchers at the University of Virginia and Harvard (actually a survey of 11 studies) has found that most people, across all age groups, would rather not sit alone in quiet with their thoughts.  The majority would opt for some distraction or point of focus outside of their own mind over six to fifteen minutes of silent contemplation.  In one of the studies, two-thirds of the men and one quarter of the women preferred to give themselves a mild electric shock over sitting alone in silence, even in their own homes, for a few minutes.

Another study has found that 56% of people in the United States cannot simply sit and watch TV without engaging with other digital media.

It as also been found that an ambient noise level of about 70 decibels (the hum of the neighborhood coffee shop) boosts creative thinking more than silence does.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

The Dark Night

I've received many benefits from my meditation practice.  Yet, as I've written in some of my most often read posts, I'm skeptical about the vast positive claims the proponents of mindfulness meditation make.  It truly can't be this good for everyone who undertakes it.

Today many teachers with little depth of understanding of the challenges meditators can face are leading students into practices that, while often very positive and relaxing, can lead a troubled mind to very dangerous places.

Monday, June 9, 2014

Meditation on a Friend's Suicide

A very close friend of my wife recently killed herself.  The experience has been gut-wrenching.  I wrote a post the day after we received the news.  It has been published on PsychCentral.

You can read it here.

Thursday, June 5, 2014

It's Not That I've Stopped Thinking

I’ve often attributed my success in managing bipolar disorder to the meditation practice I added to my treatment regimen years ago.  While there’s no doubt that the noticing involved in meditation has helped me head off major episodes of mania and depression, I changed something else in my life at about the same time I began to practice.  This adaptation may have equal weight in my wellness.  What did I change?  I stopped reading fiction.

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Meditating With Purpose

If mindfulness is the sharpening of one’s ability to notice, then perhaps this noticing can be applied to the subtle changes in thoughts, behavior, and emotions that precede or come concurrently with the onset of a mood change or a psychotic episode.  One changes as one enters any psychiatric episode.  Noticing these changes can enable the individual to take whatever steps are necessary, and effective, to head off a debilitating psychiatric break.

Sunday, May 4, 2014

The MBSR Police

Mindfulness-based Stress Reduction (MBSR) was first presented 36 years ago by Jon Kabat Zinn in the Pain Clinic of the University of Massachusetts’ Medical Center.  Since then, tens of thousands of patients have benefited from mindfulness training by taking classes that adhere to, and classes that are similar to, the MBSR program.  Today, variants of the program have sprung up at leading medical centers worldwide.  This has led many to wonder how should mindfulness be best taught as a medical intervention, and by whom?